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Nissan corporate culture responsible for tyranny of ex-chairman Ghosn: former worker

Yasushi Abe, a former Nissan Motor Co. temporary staff member, lays out flyers calling for support to render dismissals at the company invalid as he speaks about then Chairman Carlos Ghosn in the Kanagawa Prefecture city of Kawasaki, on Nov. 21, 2018. (Mainichi/ Shunsuke Kamiashi)

KAWASAKI -- The life of a former temporary employee dispatched to Nissan Motor Co. changed drastically, along with many others, due to a severe corporate downsizing plan to reduce Nissan's expenses led by former chairman Carlos Ghosn -- referred to as the "cost cutter."

Nissan dismissed the 64-year-old chairman, under arrest on suspicion of violating Japan's Financial Instruments and Exchange Act, at an ad-hoc board meeting on the evening of Nov. 22.

Yasushi Abe, 55, who formerly worked as a temporary staff member at Nissan, was laid off after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. The massive remuneration Ghosn claimed to have earned was "money gained at the expense of workers," the man said angrily. Abe hasn't changed his belief that he and other employees "are not expenses."

The former Nissan worker studied design at university and initially worked at a major automaker as a full-time employee. Abe opened up his own business after resigning from his job but later started working as a temporary employee at the major Nissan Technical Center in the Kanagawa Prefecture city of Atsugi in the fall of 2003.

Abe was responsible for designing cars. His colleagues at work treated him as part of their team, without any boundaries between regular staff and dispatched employees. However, Abe saw his workplace driven into confusion following abrupt orders by Ghosn such as, "Speed up the development," and, "We are going to accelerate the launch date." He felt that Nissan was a company that followed any command from Ghosn. But Abe still took pride in "creating Nissan vehicles."

Everything changed in February 2009, a year after the fall of Lehman Brothers. Ghosn announced a downsizing plan through a television broadcast within the company. Abe thought he wouldn't be among those to lose their positions, as he had a technical job, but he guessed wrong. The employment agency Abe used only explained that he was dismissed "at the convenience of Nissan." Unconvinced, he demanded an explanation from Nissan, but the auto giant did not even respond.

The 55-year-old man is still trying to demand collective bargaining with Nissan through the Central Labor Relations Commission, an external bureau of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. However, Nissan has not given the slightest indication of agreeing to hold talks to reach a resolution.

Abe pondered President Hiroto Saikawa's comment in the Nov. 19 news conference held on the night Ghosn was arrested. "Excessive authority was concentrated on just one person. The incident is the adverse legacy of Ghosn's longstanding rule," Saikawa told the press. But Abe has a feeling that it was Nissan's corporate culture that had allowed Ghosn's tyranny. "The two officials under arrest can't be the only ones responsible," Abe said. "I hope Nissan cleans up its act by changing its top management."

(Japanese original by Shunsuke Kamiashi, City News Department)

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